on 2 October 2012
It might take a few listens but sooner rather than later the awesome power of this album will win you over. I listen to classic and modern Rock, classical piano (I've noticed that Muse like to reference Chopin on this - track no.4, Prelude - and their previous album The Resistance) and film scores (Hanz Zimmer first and foremost) and Muse combine all three and more into a fabulicious concoction of verve, rebellion and almighty rock tunes.
Inspirations are varied; the oft-cited Queen is present but also Bowie (in Madness and Panic Station)and John Barry (in the opening track, Supremacy, which is openly Bondesque) and other artists as well no doubt. Muse sure as hell know their stuff.
Stand outs for me are many but I will cite Supremacy, Madness, Survival, Follow Me, Explorers and the last track, Isolated System, which is one of the best productions Muse have ever accomplished in my opinion, and that is saying a lot, all the more so that it works even without Bellamy's penetrating voice.
The duff tracks I would say are the base player's tracks on fighting alcoholism, Save Me and Liquid State, which, while not outright bad, are overshadowed by the other songs and the first 2nd Law "dub step" track, Unsustainable, is also on the weak side.
I'd say this was an 8.5 out of 10, taking into account the weaker tracks, but is certainly more than four stars, hence the five stars.
In conclusion: Muse Rock
on 12 October 2012
This seems to be a bit of marmite album - though I'm glad to see that the 5* votes are starting to pile up. I love everything Muse have ever done; their best work is sublime. My own feeling about this album is that maybe the band have grown up a bit, there's less of the angst-y teenager, more reflective adult in the lyrics. I strongly disagree with reviewers who say they've sold out. This is Muse moving on, and moving on in a very interesting direction. I've listened to the album twice now. Even on my first listen I felt that this was probably the best thing I've heard this year. On second listen I was starting to get very excited indeed - this is complex, beautiful music. I feel that this album improves as it goes along - the first tracks are good but the middle section is amazing. I suspect I will be listening to this - and hearing new things within the music - for a very long time.
on 10 October 2012
While there are no standout commercial tracks as on The Resistance, on balance this is a better album. Its great to see a British rock band that are as utterly crazy as Queen were, no-one could ever replace Mercury as a front man, but we need bands to push the envelope and with all the auto-tuned commercial rubbish being produced this days Muse are a beacon of talent, musicians who can play and sing and put on a great live show. Now can't wait for the next album!
I've loved Muse since I first saw them perform "Bliss" on TV, being blown away by that huge guitar riff and Matt Bellamy's soaring operatic voice. Since then I've seen them live half a dozen or so times, including twice at Wembley, and they're probably the best live act I've ever seen, if anything getting better and better with every tour. In terms of albums though it seems to be a case of diminishing returns. Don't get me wrong - there is much to enjoy here - but it feels somehow lacklustre, and despite repeated listens I'm struggling to fall in love with "The 2nd Law" like I have with most of the other albums.
It starts so well, with "Supremacy" sounding like a Bond theme in waiting, full of strings and all of the over-the-top flourishes that make Muse the band that they are. It's easily the most Muse-like song here, and in some respects feels like a bit of a farewell to their "old" sound, as after this track it all goes a little strange.
I like "Madness" a lot, starting with a similar sound to "Undisclosed Desires" from their last album, but after a few minutes the tone shifts and the band seem to burst through the electronic murk. Some people have said the song sounds like Prince, and maybe it's because I'm a Prince fan I like this, but it's possibly my favourite on the album.
"Panic Station" is fast and catchy, sounding rather like 80s funk (my girlfriend - also a Muse fan - thinks it sounds like Duran Duran!) but it doesn't really work for me. It's OK, but feels insubstantial.
"Survival" is this album's "United States of Eurasia" - the big Queen-alike epic, complete with lots of piano, squealing guitars, and will probably see lots of people wander off to the bars when they play it live. Perhaps too OTT for its own good?
"Follow Me" - the first of a few songs which seem to feature endless repetition of "(something) me" in the lyrics - is the first track featuring dubstep-like tones, a deep electronic bass smothered with synths dominating the chorus. It's fun, but doesn't sound like Muse, aside from Matt's voice. It actually sounds more like a club track than anything.
"Animals" - Had great hopes for this, but it just sounds a little too meandering. At the starts it sounds like something from the "Showbiz" era in a way, and becomes a bit more interesting as it goes on, but it doesn't seem to really go anywhere.
"Explorers" - Sorry, but I really don't like this one. Sounds almost like something from a musical in a way, and I always think it is called "Free Me" because Matt sings those words so many times.
"Big Freeze" - sounds like U2!
"Save Me" / "Liquid State" - Two songs written and sung by Chris, the bass player, and they really serve to show just how much Matt's voice brings to the band. To me these tracks just sound like a fairly run-of-the-mill rock band - competent but unremarkable.
"The 2nd Law - Unsustainable" - I may be in the minority but I think the blend of strings, choir and dubstep influences really works here. Noisy for sure, but it has grown on me more than anything else on the album.
"The 2nd Law - Isolated System" - Reminds me of Mike Oldfield, circa "Tubular Bells 2" or 3. An ambient-sounding instrumental.
All in all it is a reasonable collection of songs but for me it lacks that certain spark, and in some respects it feels a little rushed, as though they hurried it out before they had a couple of really excellent tracks to fit into the collection. You won't find another "Bliss", "Stockholm Syndrome", "Knights of Cydonia", "Plug In Baby", "Citizen Erased" etc. here, and although they're clearly very, very good at what they do it is all a bit of a disappointment. Maybe it will all sound better when I hear them play it live.
on 1 October 2012
To strike a balance between the "Muse 'til I die" and the "disappointed" reviewers, I would like to say this is probably better than Black Holes.. or The Resistance, on the basis that I am likely to skip less tracks than on the two previous albums.
The only complete no no for me is the Michael Jackson rip, Panic Station. Apart from the wholesale lifting of the riff from Thriller, Matt also steals some of the vocal phrasing too. I appreciate this is very tongue in cheek, but I never liked MJ in any shape or form so the "joke" hurts. You can also sing the lyrics to another one bites the dust without missing a beat.
My other concern is some tracks sound a little Muse by numbers, but this is album no. 6 so some revisiting of old themes is to be expected. After all, Muse on autopilot still wipe most of the competition off the map.
If you like the Muse sound, this will not disappoint, and several tracks, Supremacy, Madness, Liquid State, Unsustainable & Isolated System are as good as most of the Muse back catalogue. The rest are familiar enough to be Muse and different enough not to be rewrites.
I long for a harder follow up to Absolution, but in its absence, this will do nicely.
on 13 July 2013
As I've mentioned before, a measure of how good an album is is how long it survives amongst the six I have playing on a loop in my car. I've had this one playing since it's October 1012 release. It's still in there! Definitely a record (excuse the pun). Muse have always sounded like other bands, this is no critisism, tracks on this one remind me of Monty Norman, Queen, Radiohead & Mike Oldfield. The title track should be useful for anyone studying physics, despite the insertion of an ecomessage into the second law of thermodynamics. I can't imagine anyone who has liked Muse in the past not giving this 5 stars.
on 10 October 2012
Take Foo Fighters, Led Zep (circa Kashmir), Queen (Gaga AND Bohemian Rhapsody), Pink Floyd, INXS, Porcupine Tree, U2, Prince, Dan Reed Network, Pet Shop Boys (Yes; really!), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ultravox and Radiohead - sprinkle liberally with Rachmaninov - and you have Muse's "The 2nd Law".
Someone's already described it as "overblown and preposterous" - and it's certainly that (when haven't they been?) - someone else termed it "operatic dubstep"...
...all I know is it pushes boundaries, can be challenging, is flamboyant, difficult to pigeonhole, occasionally self-indulgent, bears repeated listening and, for all that, is typically Muse: i.e. a superb take on modern, melodic Prog Rock with plenty of original twists!
For homogenous, readily digestible chart-fodder - with limited creative input and innovation - look elsewhere.
on 4 October 2012
Like every other Muse fan I was quite apprehensive about this album given all the talk about dubstep and the band's insistance on trying different styles with every new album. I'm not someone who doesn't like change - in fact I admire Muse for trying different sounds - but unfortunately this album hasn't really connected, and as a Muse fan since Showbiz (1999), I was really rooting for them.
The first track, Supremacy, is very 007-esque, and it's a good rock track, but I feel like it needs a but more explosiveness a la Assassin from Black Holes and Revelations.
Madness is definitely one of the best songs on here, if only for the build up and great singing at the climax around the 3:40 point.
Panic station is ridiculous, but I actually really like it. It's a kind of Red-Hot-Chili-Peppers-meets-INXS vibe, but it's done extremely well.
Survival, the Olympics song, is an odd one. I like most of the elements, and I think the falsetto at the 2:55 mark is judged brilliantly, but the lyrics are so lame that I feel a little awkward most of the way through.
Follow Me is very good - a very musical, classic Muse verse and bridge, followed by a chorus that sounds very much like something by Nero on their Welcome Reality album.
Animals is yet another different style of song. It's more chilled out than the other tracks with some great bass lines and nice lead guitar twiddling, and eventually degenerates into a load of shouting voices, which matches the whole theme of unsustainable consumerism driven by thoughtless instinct. It could be more interesting though.
I can't get particularly excited about Explorers. It's OK (and I do like the Elbow-style harmony slide at 4:03) but mostly quite boring. Big Freeze, likewise, is OK but I don't find myself deliberately listening to it. It's basically a U2 track with Matt Bellamy on vocals, even including the prerequisite U2 fade-in at the start. In fact, he even sings "electrical storm" at 2:07 - I assume this is a deliberate reference, which I quite like, but it doesn't make the song much more interesting.
Right, now we're into Save Me and Liquid State, both written and sung by Chris instead of Matt. Oddly, and irritatingly, both these tracks seem to have far worse production than the rest of the album: they sounds flat, there's no detail in there, and I've not idea why the band and producers would let that pass. Anyway, Save Me is quite forgettable and Liquid State is basically a decent Foo Fighters track that could do with a bit more musical complexity.
The two closing tracks are remarkable for their lack of singing and of course the infamous dubstep 'unsustainable' robot. To be honest I quite like them both (the first half of Isolated System btw reminds me of some of the more obscure stuff by Divine Comedy, but perhaps that's just me...). The problem is, compared to the epicness of the Exogenesis Symphony series on Resistance, they're just not that interesting.
Ultimately, I think Muse have tried very hard to cover as many genres as possible and, in general, they've done a good job of it. It's just that it feels a bit gimmicky, like they said "What shall we try this time then? How about we just stick a load of different styles in there and see what happens?". And that's fine, but when we all know they're capable of producing music that's completely original, inventive and unlike other artists it's just a bit disappointing. Where's the stand-out Muse-ness that made them so great? Cave, Showbiz, Citizen Erased, Plug in Baby, Stockholm Syndrome, Knights of Cydonia, Exogenesis Part 1 - those are the kind of original tracks I'm talking about. I hope they can bring that back for the next album.
on 5 October 2012
The 2nd Law is a fine album, or at least it CAN BE if the running order is given a little make-over...
Seriously, TRY THIS - I think it gives the album a much better structure:
04. Liquid State
05. Panic Station
06. Follow Me
07. Big Freeze
08. Save Me
13. Isolated System
Thank you for listening... Goodnight ;)
on 22 January 2013
Their latest album has 5 big anthems varying from an epic James Bond-style opener, extremely infectious beautifully-written 'Madness', Queen-Style stadium dance track 'Panic Station', Olympic anthem 'Survival' and the very U2 'Big Freeze'.
Along with these, the bass player gives a 'Pendulum' style vocal to 'Liquid State'.
There are some very serious and personal lyrics, but rather than feeling depressing the album has an energising effect that will certainly work well live at their stadium shows in Summer 2013.
Definitely worth buying the whole album, but if downloading individual tracks 'Save Me', 'Liquid State' and 'Animals' are probably the weakest tracks.
The last 2 tacks - 2nd Law work as a stand-alone piece, but need the rest of the album to put into perspective.
Part One has 'Jean Michel Jarre - Revolutions' style robotic vocal and noisy 'transformers-style' samples that you either like or hate.
Prt 2 is a beautiful digi-classical piece reminiscent of Mike Oldfield's 'tubular bells' - again with samples, it is 'like it or hate it' territory.
Not for everybody, but if you don't like 'Madness' - there is something seriously wrong with you!